My Digital Workplace Addiction – I Just Can’t Get Enough.

I have a tablet, a mobile, a laptop, and a smart watch. I work not only from home but also as a passenger in a car or whilst on the tube, plane or train. I work in the mornings, the afternoons, the evenings and sometimes over the weekend.

My work commitments continue to be achieved without hindrance whilst I exercise in the gym, pick up necessities from the supermarket, attend a doctors’ or dentist appointment (when I must) or collect my car from its annual service. Welcome to my addiction to the ‘Digital Workplace’.

I liken my ‘Digital Workplace’ addiction to coffee. When first introduced into the UK back in the 16th century, coffee was such a success that early English coffee houses became gathering places used for deep religious and political discussions among the populace. I am not for a moment suggesting that the ‘Digital Workplace’ should be used for such discussions, but I do often give thought to Starbucks, Costa and the £6.2 billion industry in the UK…….

People are now addicted to coffee, could the same soon be true of the ‘Digital Workplace’?

If Abraham Maslow were to write his Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in the 21st century, then surely internet access would make the list? Internet access is essential in my ‘Digital Workplace’, I need a fast and ubiquitous connection to enable me to work with any one or all of my devices. The availability of Wi-Fi, 4G and tethering from a mobile would mean that internet access was not a limiting factor for individual’s progression up his hierarchy.

At BA Insight, I thoroughly enjoy working with our globally based clients. However, being English and based in the UK means that I’m very aware of time zones across the globe, and I think it is safe to say that the idea of the traditional 9-5 job seems to be limited to fewer and fewer roles. Certainly in the IT sector, people/clients understandably want 24/7/365 support, and people need the support to be readily available. It is not only client needs but also customer service that drives the notion of ‘availability’, which in the world of international business is required to survive. With this, businesses are becoming more understanding of their employees’ work/life balance – there definitely seems to be more flexibility surrounding the traditional core hours, whether this is coming into the office later, leaving earlier or working from home.

“Work is what you do, not where you go to.”Work in Any Location

Work in any location

Use any device

Share information

Furthermore, the stigma of “out of sight, out of mind” and “oh yeah – ‘working’ from home” is subsiding because good organisations promote trust between employees and employers.

Gartner describes the ‘Digital Workplace‘ as something that “enables new, more effective ways of working; raises employee engagement and agility, and exploits consumer-oriented styles and technologies.”

Deloitte, on the other hand, has a very funky and logically designed framework to describe what they define as the ‘Digital Workplace’.

Deloitte also blogged on ‘What it takes to be a great Digital Workplace’. They highlight three key areas: make room for your people to grow, support individuals holistically, and create a culture of innovation.

Whereas the Digital Workplace Group offers the ‘Digital Workplace Map’ and the seven dimensions of the digital workplace maturity assessment:

  • Communication and Business Intelligence
  • Collaboration and Community
  • Services and Workflow
  • Structure and Coherence
  • Mobility and Flexibility
  • Strategic Alignment and Management
  • Organizational Readiness

Whilst all of the definitions and takes of the ‘Digital Workplace’ seem to be consistent, the elements and variables that comprise the ‘Digital Workplace’ plus the role it plays differ depending on which website you visit, what blog you read, or what industry expert you liaise with.

Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to attend the IntraTeam Event in Copenhagen with BA Insight. This is a conference that focusses on high performing Intranets, ESN’s and Digital Workplaces. Therefore, it was interesting to hear other people’s views and experiences on the ‘Digital Workplace’ in addition to the definitions described above.

As a first time attendee, I was taken with the amount of content related to the ‘Digital Workplace’. Sessions by Steve Bynghall from Two Hives – “The internal digital workplace as an incubator for external channels”, and “The complexity of building a digital workplace business case” by Sara Redin particularly grabbed my attention as they made me think about my own obsession with the ‘Digital Workplace’.

They made me question whether I am too consumed and caught up in the actual idea of the ‘Digital Workplace’ rather than what it is about i.e. enabling me to be more productive, efficient and work in a way that fits my lifestyle.

I have already mentioned the idea of agile working, working from anywhere and everywhere is the new normal, and I now want to look at two other areas that drive my addiction with my ‘Digital Workplace’.

Firstly, collaborating in a virtual workplace. I need a pretty impressive excuse if I ever have to pull the “late for work card”. The commute from another room in my house is not a particularly treacherous one, I may have to deal with the dog, the postman or a pile of washing. Seldom do I have a jam on the stairs nor do I tube line running from the living to the study via the kitchen so the closure of the “hallway line” cannot be blamed!

As organisations grow and in some cases break into new markets, the geographies of an organisation changes. The possibility of employees being in the same place at the same time diminishes. I have heard people say, how do you meet with people, what about time differences and isn’t it weird not being in the same place as other employees at the same time? The simple answer is no and to be honest, working in a physical workplace can often cause more difficulties than a conference call. Using technology such as Skype for Business, people still sat at their desk and therefore, they dial in, have the meeting and then get back to what they were doing.

In an office environment, sometimes, getting people out of their office and into a meeting room on the 10th floor of a building can prove a task – for some. Skype for Business loads up when I log on, I can see who else is at work, who is available should I need assistance, when people are free by looking at their calendar and then linking a meeting to their availability. Of course, Skype for Business can also be used in a physical workplace too but the tool means I am not losing out by working virtually.

A virtual or physical workplace does not negate the need for people to work cohesively and interact effectively on projects and in collaborative spaces. The necessity for virtual teams and bridging people who are no longer directly connected i.e. the backbone of structure for work process, has grown. This requires a platform or solution to facilitate collaboration and centralise information. Solutions such as SharePoint (which I cannot deny – I simply adore) are becoming increasingly popular within the enterprise, a shell to build and develop solutions on top of. BA Insight recognises the power of developing new applications to aid the ‘Digital Workplace’ and enable employees to collaborate across an organisation.  The Internet and the so-called ‘millennials’ (of which I just sneak into the age boundary) are also playing a huge part in this too. Social media platforms are now the norm in our personal lives and the key is translating these experiences into the working world. They provide familiarisation which can ease the transition into a world of sharing, voting, posting, editing, viewing and disseminating to the wider organisation. Allowing employees to subscribe to information that they actually need as opposed to providing them with content that others ‘think’ they need, means that users do not get caught up in the information pollution. It is the balance between the push and pull of information; let the user decide what they need to do their job and allow them to collaborate using the correct information. BA Insight is supporting our customers through the use of our InfoSites solution.

My love for technology and addiction to the ‘Digital Workplace’ leads me to explore new solutions. As mentioned previously, these technological developments are occurring as a direct result of user behaviour through social media solutions. They are driving the demand for new ways of working.

Microsoft is an example of an organisation that recognises this. They have seen that information is everywhere and not all users want to know about all organisational content. I refer to this as CCB – “Company Content Bombardment”, e.g. there are cakes in the kitchen in Berlin but I work in London. The idea of personalised content is becoming more prevalent and important in increasing employee productivity. Microsoft Delve is a product that surfaces personalised content to users from across Office 365.

This is a tool that I love and am constantly dipping in and out of whether at work or not. It lets me quickly see what I want via boards and cards. I know what is going on, who is working on what, how projects are developing and at a more granular level, things such as; has user ‘A’ updated that document that I need yet, etc. Naturally, the user experience in this whole ideology of collaboration is key to its success.

collaboration

The idea of many people working on one document is not a new concept yet in reality, it hasn’t actually been just one document. Let me take you through a short example: –

  • Bob creates a document and emails a copy to Sue but saves it on his desktop first – one version of the document
  • Sue opens the document, saves it locally, make some edits and emails it back to Bob but copies in John – now two versions of the document, Bob’s original and now Sue’s
  • John saves a copy locally, edits Sue’s document, replies to Bob and Sue but CC’s in the finance team (6 people) – too many versions of the document
  • The process continues

I think the message is clear, people are collaborating, just not very efficiently. Which is the master document, who owns the document, where are the versions (locally – argh!!) and there is a time delay on every edit thus it is not real time.

OneDrive for Business removes this email snail trail, the slowness, the multiple versions and the human error. Document co-authoring means one document, in a centralised location, accessible on whenever, wherever and at any time and in real time.

Again, this is not purely about the ‘Digital Workplace’ as this can happen regardless. It does mean that when you combine co–authoring with tools like Yammer (Enterprise Social Networking) and Microsoft O365 Groups (a little like WhatsApp), you have Enterprise Collaboration using out of the box solutions. These solutions are easy to set up, logical to use and can provide a powerful solution for the businesses.

At BA Insight, we use these features all of the time and it works. The instant and constant access to collaboration tools form part of my ‘Digital Workplace’. It allows me to continue to feed this addiction because I am always connected and fully engaged with other colleagues across my organisation – regardless of location.

My second focus area is what I believe really makes organisations tick – access to content, information and data, because, without it, we are just people bumbling around without a common insight. Information is so readily available now, on your mobile or tablet, on digital billboards as you walk down the street, on digital displays in the supermarket, at the airport or train station – it’s everywhere. Traditionally in organisations, people have gone to specific systems to gain access to content, however, this is not time productive and can create a siloed mentality.

This approach appears to be changing as there were a number of discussions around “the changing faces of Intranets” at the IntraTeam Event in Copenhagen. The event highlighted that some organisations are moving away from the traditional news focussed intranet and developing portals that act as gateways to dispersed organisational content. Today’s intranets are now about providing a plethora of functionality including news, corporate directory, document repository, collaboration and the list continues. There doesn’t appear to be one defining sentence that encompasses what an intranet is for every organisation – naturally as each organisation is different. In my mind, I don’t believe that the intranet is an ‘old word’ for the ‘Digital Workplace’ – this however, is a whole new discussion.

The intranet can act as a portal/hub/gateway into dispersed content. Enterprise search can be integrated so that users go to one place, search, and find exactly what they are looking for and quickly. This is a core competency in my ‘Digital Workplace’.

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), employees spend 19% of their average week, searching and gathering information – among other things:

average work week

I cannot afford to spend hours searching for content and then not knowing if it is the latest and greatest document. Naturally, technology plays an important role – information drives businesses and the ability to find, obtain and access this information means that there can be many efficiency gains. The introduction of technologies such as Microsoft Office 365 now means access to information and content is easier and simpler than it has ever been. Users can:

  • Triage emails on mobiles whilst on the train ride to work – some of this 28% of their average week could be saved ☺
  • Use BA Insight’s Smart Preview to quickly view content on a phone or tablet device.
  • Whilst in a café – collaborate with department members on critical business documents quickly, easily and in real-time using Office Online – some of this 14% of their average week could be saved ☺
  • Share a document using OneDrive for Business with an international client or colleague while sitting in your living room – again some of this 14% of their average week could be saved ☺
  • Speak and video conference with a client in Singapore whilst in a team meeting in London using Skype for Business.
  • Get real-time insight into a project’s progress through an interactive dashboard on a tablet in a SharePoint project or team site using Power BI rather than combine multiple Excel work sheets to get an update on status.

All of these things, plus many more, provide greater business efficiencies as they allow access to information from locations and at times that were not possible ten, even five years ago. People are taking advantage of the so called ‘dead time’ when in transit – effective short, sharp bursts of work.

BA Insight’s own customers are teaching us how relevant our products are for their ‘Digital Workplace’ i.e. not having to save and download every document onto their mobile rather, preview the content that they actually need using Smart Preview. They show us that they need to seamlessly connect into line of business applications. They want one point on entry, one portal into multiple disparate systems across the enterprise as this enables quick access to information and content – use one search to source all content means time savings and avoids the confusion of where content lives. BA Insight customers are achieving this via various solutions like our application indexing connectors.

The downside to readily available information and content can mean – before I log off, I’ll just do this; I’ll just check that. Equally, information pollution and content overload can mean subsidence into a poor work/life balance. Technologies such as Microsoft Delve Analytics monitor the idea of work life balance. Delve is an organisational analytics feature that provides insights into how users and their teams really work such as:

  • How much time you spend in meetings, length of meetings etc.
  • Amount of time spent emailing
  • Your collaborations, who you have not contacted for a period of time etc.
  • Your working week
  • How many hours you worked ‘after hours’

It also contains an index of work-life balance, based on communications that are going out during office hours, with the goal of helping individuals get time back and spend it effectively.

Delve Analytics

So in conclusion, the above are just some of my thoughts on what comprises a ‘Digital Workplace’ and there are many more such as:

  • Data security – where does it live, who controls it and who has access
  • Employee Engagement –  what are people doing differently, how are adoption plans changing to incorporate the ‘Digital Workplace’, are employees engaged?
  • Process Driven by Data – integration with line of business applications
  • The four C’s – Communication, Collaboration, Content and Context
  • Etc.

It is not an exhaustive list but the main message is that the ‘Digital Workplace’ is not about bricks and mortar. It is about efficiencies and achieving those efficiencies through new technology and alternative ways of working.

I am always keen to learn about new technologies and especially those that help me to feed my addiction and obsession with the ‘Digital Workplace’ e.g. when is the new iPhone out, what does it do differently that could help me at work, how is wearable technology developing and can sensors such as the Ralph Lauren PoloTech shirt really play a part in my ‘Digital Workplace’.

Nobody knows if the idea of a ‘Digital Workplace’ is just a fancy new term which will more than likely be replaced by some other funky concept in the future. Personally, for me it is not about the name, it is about the concept that it refers to. I enjoy the way I work as it provides me with a good work life balance, it is not for everyone but I do feel that more and more organisations around the world will bring in policies, procedures and messaging around the idea/concept of a ‘Digital Workplace’ and namely due to the changes in everyday life, technology and user expectations.

Finally, Jane McConnell from Digital Workplace Trends raises some very valid points about the ‘Digital Workplace’ that I whole heartedly agree with:

Tools – as you can tell from my blog, I am a big believer in technology. It can innovate and aid success within an organisation through new and innovative ways of doing things. Knowledge and data is used to provide the insights, and a place of work can be defined as ‘bricks and mortar’.

Organisation – simply put, the organisation is the enablers, they can purchase the tools, provide the virtual or physical workplace and put plans/process in place.

People – the most important point to remember is, an organisation is about the people. They are the culture, they display the emotions and build the relationships. This should not be forgotten as without the people a company is just simply bricks and mortar – be it, physical or virtual.

All of these things, people, organisation and tools contribute to the ‘Digital Workplace’ but the mind-set of the individual, employees and the employers should be right. The ‘Digital Workplace’ works for me because of the three elements described but mainly because I believe in it and I am addicted to making it work.

Perhaps in five years’ time we will all be meeting in ‘Digital Workplace’ houses sipping coffee!!!!

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